Ascend '15: Episerver's new features

Posted by Justin Masters
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As Netcel’s Chief Technology Officer, my focus is on helping our clients to shape and deliver their digital strategies.

With its talks and presentations from leading marketing and commerce innovators, the EPiServer Ascend ‘15 conference was a good opportunity to hear more about the latest product roadmap, releases, and to share best practice.

Here are my notes, from what was a very informative day, about the new Episerver features that are being rolled out, and the features we can expect to see in the near future.

New content features

In the Spring and Summer '15 Episerver releases, new features have been added for both content collaboration and working with content. These new features include:

  • Automatic notifications: Content collaboration facilitates all communication around content in a single place with no email trails. Automatic notifications for content updates can be kept within Episerver with the option to send messages to other users or groups of users available directly within the editor UI.
  • Publish together: Content projects provide the option to add new content or make changes to existing content across pages, media (assets), blocks and products as a coordinated "project" and subsequently publish, or schedule the items to be published, all together at once.
  • Create reusable templates: Instant Templates is a third party module that provides editors with the option to create their own content templates directly within the Episerver editor UI, from pages that they create themselves.

    Using an existing content type, editors can create a new page and save this as a reusable template that either they or other editors can then subsequently use to create other pages. The templates can include blocks as well.
  • APIs: Other new features currently in early beta include a Projects API and a Notifications API.

    The Projects API will allow developers to create content projects programmatically, to add or remove content items. This could enable better integration with third party content creation systems, including an option for scheduling content updates or reviewing the content updates as a batch.

    The Notifications API will allow developers to create notification messages within Episerver around nearly any event either within Episerver or a third party related system, based on custom business rules.

New for Episerver Commerce

  • New promotions engine: The number one priority for the Commerce development team is a new promotions engine that will entirely replace the existing promotions engine. It has been re-engineered from the ground up.

    One of the main benefits of the new promotion engine is the ease with which developers will be able to create new types of custom/bespoke promotions; something that is currently more complex and time consuming.

    Our expectation is that there will be a standard set of default promotion types available out of the box with new promotion types added over time within the continuous release cycle that Episerver have moved to. Other promotion types may also be released as open source by the developer community.
  • "Near threshold" status: Another feature within the new promotions engine is a "near threshold" status for a promotion in context of the current user or their basket. Instead of the state of a promotion being relevant to the user (or their basket) being binary - applicable or not - the system will be able to report whether the promotion is nearly relevant.

    For example: if the user just adds another £3 worth of products to their basket they will be eligible for a 20% discount. This has always been technically feasible to achieve but it is now much simpler to implement.
  • Promotion priority: The option to prioritise promotions has also been added within the new promotions engine. This would mean that as a Commerce manager, you can define which promotions should have a higher priority and be applied over and above other eligible promotions.
  • Enhanced Find: Episerver Find is to be more tightly integrated into Episerver Commerce. One tighter integration relates to how an index is updated as products within the Commerce catalogs are updated. Instead of having be re-indexed on a scheduled/regular basis the tighter integration will result in near real-time updates within the Episerver Find index.

New for Episerver Forms

  •  Improved forms functionality: XForms has been around in its current form since circa 2005 without any significant changes. The forms functionality within Episerver will soon undergo significant improvements, to introduce new functionality that has long been called for by Episerver users.
  • Personalisation and more: The new Episerver Forms will allow multi-step forms, personalised forms and localised forms as well as exposing the forms data via a new API. The new forms functionality will operate within the standard Episerver editor UI in the same way as most other functionality within Episerver.

    Much of the existing functionality has been retained but significantly extended. Each individual form element can be personalised using Episerver's personalisation functionality so different form fields can be enabled or disabled based on a user’s behaviour or prior interaction with the site.
  • Versioning: The forms will now support full versioning so that, as an editor, you can see the full history of a form and revert a form to a prior state. A form could be included within the new content projects functionality. 
  • Multiple steps: Forms will be able to be broken up into multiple steps. Steps will be able to be shown (or not) based on previously selected options within the form.
  • Better layout control: Developers will also be able to quickly create new custom form elements. Full control over the HTML produced by each individual form element will allow much better layout control for Episerver forms. This will enable a better level of accessibility compliance for the forms. And a new form element for quickly adding a Captcha will be available, too.

The road ahead for Episerver

In the late afternoon, the Product Roadmap breakout session outlined Episerver’s forthcoming plans. We’ll be looking out for:

  • Profiles - enhanced profile capture for users with behavioural functionality. Will allow the system to push content instead of just editor defined personalisation rules.
  • More analytics - behavioural, possibly.
  • Better third party integration - increased integration with third party systems via Webhooks as a standard throughout the platform.
  • Commerce - tighter integration with the main UI rather than a separate Commerce Manager.

Get in touch

As an Episerver Premium Partner, we’re constantly exploring and testing the platform, then sharing our knowledge with our clients.  For a chat about the latest Episerver features and updates, please contact us at: hello@netcel.com.

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